Testing FOUR year olds – NO, NO, NO ……. on all levels ….. NO   9 comments

As you can tell from the heading of this blog, I am horrified that this Government is planning on testing 4 year olds when they start school.

If you have not read the news about this yet, you can by clicking on this link. Link to TES article on testing four year olds or this article Link to article from yahoo news or this one Link to article in The Guardian

The results of the consultation are not available yet – but I have a feeling that not many people responded positively to the idea . So maybe this consultation, like so many others recently was a paper exercise to tick a box, rather than a genuine attempt to gather  views and opinions.

I actually do not know where to start – it is wrong on so many levels. However start I must so here we go;

These are FOUR year olds, some of them will only just be four when they start school BUT actually by law they do not need to start school until the term after they are FIVE – for the youngest children this will be a whole year later.

So Point One

As it is not compulsory to send your child to school at 4, not all four year olds will be in school – so how can every child be assessed on entry to school at FOUR?

Point Two

Many schools have a phased entry into reception, some over the first few weeks of term, but some over a longer period – so just when is this proposed test to take place? In the first week of the autumn term? In the first half term? At the end of the first term? Whenever it is some of the children will be FIVE not FOUR – so it would not be a test of all four year olds

Point Three

Due to the difference in funding – although all children can (if their parents want them to) start school reception in the September after their fourth birthday – they can not all start to receive their early education funding at the same time – ie from the September after their third birthday or the September after their second birthday.

Please Note – I am not suggesting that children should all access their early years education funding from a set point in time, but I am pointing out that the oldest children in a reception class will have had more terms of early education. For example if you are 3 in September – December, you can access your funding from the following January and so get  5 terms of early years funding, but if your birthday is from May – August you only get 3 terms of early years education funding – this point is particularly important for those children who have not experience good parenting or childcare prior to being in receipt of their early education funding

Point Four

Our reception teachers already make informal assessment of the the children when they start school – so why is that not good enough? There is already a legal requirement for teachers to complete a end of Early Years Foundation Stage profile on all the children – why is this sufficient evidence of children’s abilities and support needs?

So bringing together points one – four 

If there has to be a national testing of children – and I don’t think there should be as it serves no purpose at all – but if the Government insists there should be, all children need to undertake it at the same development stage – so each child should be 5 yrs 6 months, or 6 years 3 months or whatever.

No one would dream of assessing a 9 month old against the development norms of a 12 month old because developmentally it is unfair,  also because the 9 month old has had 25% less life experiences than the 12 month old.

No one would think it right for some GCSE students to take their GCSE’s after only 3 terms of study while everyone else gets 5 terms worth of study

So why does anyone think it right to test 4 year olds all at the same time –  ie on entry to school?

Point Five

What will the test be testing? The articles suggest baseline tests in academic based  skills – not in the non academic things like dressing self, asking for help, playing together, taking turns and the long list of essential skills that need to be in place before formal academic progress can even be considered or achieved.

Point Six

There will be pressure on early years settings to ensure children enter school with the ability to ‘preform’ well in these tests – so that will mean learning by rote and not learning by doing, self discovery and own mistakes,  it will mean short term memory skills, not long term secure knowledge and understanding of why? how? what happens if? and all those important brain connections that are actually the foundation of learning – and provide the ability to think outside the box, to adapt to whatever situation they may face in the future. Being able to say your numbers from 1 – 10,  does not mean that you understand what 1 is, or what 9 is – and you certainly don’t understand that if you put the 1 and the 9 together you have 10….. and so on.

Point Seven

What will they do with the test results?

For a start they will use them to ‘push’ the child into conforming to the Governments expected achievement levels, it will label some children as needing support when in fact they are just a little overwhelmed with the whole school thing, or simply not yet ready to develop in that area

And as a result academic based subjects will be given priority, so more sitting at desks and less learning through play and hands on experiences

Point Eight

Reception teachers – who on the whole are skilled early years practitioners who understand child development, and the long term benefit of learning through play and hands on experiences – will be forced to go against the principles of their training and their own beliefs, even more than they currently are, as pressure is put on them to turn out little robots who might perform well in tests that require short term memory but who can’t think for themselves, who can’t apply the knowledge drummed into them, who are not creative or inventive – and who are also more and more likely to have ‘switched off’ from school based learning and to be disruptive in class. Our reception teachers will then be forced to spend time on managing behaviour, children will get excluded more frequently, and some will be off school with stress related ‘tummy ache, headache and being physically sick – giving our reception teacher even more work to try and ‘catch’ these pupils up with their peers.

So bringing together points 5 -8

In my opinion, these tests will bring stress and workload to reception teachers, they will label children just because they are younger than others or not developmentally ready, they will drive up pressure to stop children from learning naturally and in developmentally appropriate ways, they will limit children from developing their interests and potential.

They will not improve outcomes, but  at great expense, will cause  potentially irreparable damage to our children and to our education system.

Soap box time!

This Government and previous Governments have been ‘messing’ with education for generations – new curriculum’s, new tests and exams, new types of schools and more ‘this will fix it’ measures than I can remember – most of which have not worked

We still have children leaving school without basic academic skills but also without life skills

I might be ‘old fashioned’ and I will be 55 very soon – but ‘in my day’ those children who left school without exam success, left with life skills – the vast majority could read and write at some level, they had skills in cookery, or sewing, or woodwork, or gardening and so on, – they had manners and social skills, they knew right from wrong. In a nutshell they could support themselves, hold down a job and maintain a relationship

Yes , yes – I know – not 100% of them but most of them. I look back at my classmates and those of my husband, and around 96% of them held down jobs, had families, stayed out of prison, and generally contributed to society.

And in case you are wondering, my husband and I went to the same secondary modern school (the name in those days for schools children went to if they failed the 11+) My husband left school with no formal qualifications – and still does not have those academic based qualifications but does have skill based qualifications. I left with O levels, CSE’s and even a GCSE (were being trailed at that time) – but I did not go on to take A levels. Does that make us ‘failures’, does it mean we have no value to society?

I would say we have contributed to society – we have both been in work, just about all the time since leaving school (just a few weeks each of unemployment), so we have paid our share of taxes, we are buying our own house and are nearing the end of that long commitment, we have raised 4 daughters (without the benefit of tax credits) – including supporting two of them through university.

So not failures – just ordinary citizens. And what is wrong with that?

What this Government and previous Governments still fail to recognise is that academic success is not the only measure of success or achievement, there are so many other measures of success – and in many ways – it is a personal measure rather than Government measure that matters.

When I look at my children and their friends, I see a lot of disillusioned young people, those were sold the myth that going to university would open doors for them but in reality,  they have a huge amount of student debt, many of them are still in low paid jobs, most of them can’t afford to buy their own homes . A degree nowadays is often not worth the debt incurred – opening the doors to more people raised expectations and lowered the value of a degree, and in the mean time young people don’t have the practical skills. And the Governments insistence that if you do an apprenticeship you have to have maths and English at grade C, you have to take a formal qualification – what is wrong on being assessed on your practical ability? So if you want to be a hairdresser you are assessed on cutting hair, if you want to be a plumber you are assessed on your plumbing skills?

Many adults in this country do not list their success in terms of job, or money – they refer to family and friends, to hobbies and holidays, even to voluntary work. I know many people who have given up well paid jobs to take a lower paid one that gives them more family time or leisure times. This should tell the Government something about what people place value on, what people consider to be important

And so with our four year olds and the prospect of testing them on entry to school – Will it increase the outcomes on leaving school?  – Will it give children / young people the skills needed for life? – Will it lead to children and young people being happy? – Will it make society both viable and a good place to live?

I will leave you to reach your own conclusions on this

And because this is such an important issue, I have included links to the views of others below (and will add more during the week, as I think more people will comment)

Save Childhood Movement / Too Much Too Soon campaign view

Julian Grenier’s view

Posted February 2, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

9 responses to “Testing FOUR year olds – NO, NO, NO ……. on all levels ….. NO

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  1. You have some great points. Please don’t over look the knowledge that preschool workers have regarding their key children upon their entry to school. We are educators of the earliest kind and are able to provide a picture of a whole child along with evidence to prove our statements. It seems as though everything I have documented about a certain child, all the reports, all the individual support is seen as worthless once they start school. Schools need to stop treating us as inferior and see us as knowledgeable partners.

    • It is very difficult isn’t it Amii, as early years practitioners do know their children really well – and that includes me as I am of course an early years practitioner and I provide the early years education places.

      I have personally stopped sending information into schools (since the requirement was removed in Seot 2012) because as you say often the information was not used.

      I do not blame reception teachers for this as theirs is not an easy task – and I know from experience that often the child the reception teacher sees is not the child I saw in my setting. This is due to many things – the child has developed a little more, the child has regressed a bit due to family events such as birth of sibling, they have lost their best friend who has gone to a different school – or of course the whole school thing is just a lot to get used to.

      I do of course share with the parents in that they get a leaving powerpoint and printed file full of photo’s of their child’s time at my setting. The parents can then share with the school if they want to.

  2. A very thoughtful response as always Penny. Baseline testing for Reception class was actually brought in and trialled many years ago, I remember struggling to get to know my new class as I grappled with the useless tests and there was no time to do my real job of teaching as the paper based exercise was so time consuming. Thankfully someone realised this and the baseline was removed, and then replaced with an end of year assessment!
    A good reception teacher will look at all of the evidence available, including concise and narrative descriptions from Early Years, parent information, but mostly, as all EYs, through observation of the children in their natural medium of play.
    As a specialist Early Years teacher I feel for the teachers in schools, they are being pulled so many ways when actually, they usually know best how to assess their children. Assessment always has the result of ‘teaching to the test’ and the broad and rich Early Years curriculum is in danger once again of being compromised.

  3. Dear Penny,
    I’ve just been catching up with your blogs (the ‘I was wondering…’ series and this one). I agree completely – with your questioning and with your observations. Thank you for putting all my ‘wonderings’ into words so well.
    I don’t like it but I think I understand why four year old testing is wanted (testing input against output to establish value added by the supplier i.e. schools) … but isn’t that USING children as a measuring tool? Also I’ve been childminding long enough to remember ‘baseline testing’…that didn’t work out so well. I too wonder if it will set educators against each other. Our school nursery LJs suggest much higher attainment than the same LJs for those in the first term in reception??? LJs from anyone else are ignored too.
    Regarding agencies; it seems almost accepted now that experienced childminders won’t be joining them so most of their clients will be new to the profession. I would have thought that as they gain experience and mix with independent childminders these newer childminders are likely to want to try being independent too (if they are allowed)…presumably the agencies will expect this? And either plan ways to retain them or plan to recoup their investment (set up costs) very quickly?

  4. Penny, please could you clarify for me how the requirements for childminders to provide information to schools changed in sept 2012 or perhaps point me to a statement, as there is a bit of debate and confusion about it in my area. thank you.

    • Hello Jane, the only formal assessment is now the 2 yr old check and the end of EYFS profile. Learning Journey’s etc are not required – as in the format that was assumed under EYFS 08. Of course information can and should be shared – it is how you do it that is now up each setting. I choose to this by sharing in various ways with the parent – and they choose if they want to share with the school.

      Somewhere there is a statement from Truss on this – I will see if I can find it

  5. I’ve been fuming about this for a week now and finally find an article that makes sense.Thank you for your common sense and insight. What concerns me most is the ‘labelling’ that this will lead to. Children are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. This will be nothing short of an IQ test (literacy,reasoning and..cognition) and to damn a child on this basis is inhuman and immoral. It’s like putting a food packaging label on a child to determine his/her potential and we must stand up to prevent the dystopian future that this will give rise to.

  6. Pingback: Centre Forum report thinks baseline assessment is a good idea ………….. | Penny's Place Childminding

  7. Pingback: Baseline Testing – the continuing hype by Government. Despite the hype is my understanding is right? | Penny's Place Childminding

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